The pros and cons of downsizing your home after retirement
Posted Jan 20 2011 12:02am
I've been thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of downsizing to a smaller home after retirement. This is what I've come up with so far... please feel free to add any more pros and cons that you can think of in the comments section below.
The first and most obvious advantage is that, if your existing home is worth a lot of money because of its location and size, and/or you have a lot of equity in it, the sale of the home could give you a cushion of money to make life in retirement a little easier and fund some of those 'bucket list' adventures.
I'm assuming that you would be moving to a property that would be easier to manage as you got older - not one that's going to make life more difficult (although I accept that I could be biased because cleaning and other assorted, household-related tasks are not really my thing and I can't imagine that ANYONE would CHOOSE to spend MORE time engaged in those activities!)
Downsized would, presumably, mean cheaper as far as heating, cooling and property tax bands are concerned.
If you like decorating and/or DIY, you might relish the idea of 'doing up' another home and putting your personal stamp on it.
You could have a fresh start and get rid of some of the clutter and 'stuff' that you've accumulated over the years. (Although having to get rid of much-loved stuff because you can't fit it into your new place could also be a disadvantage...)
The most obvious disadvantage that springs to mind is leaving your old home, neighbourhood, and friends and neighbours behind...
...which means acquiring new neighbours - which could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the personalities of those new neighbours.
Another big disadvantage MAY be that a downsized home may mean a 'not-as-nice-as-the-old-one' home... or a 'not-enough-room-when-friends-and-family-come-to-stay' home (although this could, equally be an advantage and a useful excuse if you don't particularly enjoy the company of some of your friends and family members).
A smaller home might mean a smaller or non-existent garden (again, not a problem for someone like me - I hate gardening and it would save me the cost of having to pay someone else to do it for me!).
Moving home can be stressful at any age and, I suspect that, the older you get, the more stressful it feels.
I've moved 8 times in my adult life - twice, temporarily, to apartments which brought me into close proximity with my neighbours. In my experience, the worst thing about downsizing to a smaller place is the fact that you, very often, put yourself closer to other people and their noise. The thing that I love best about living in a detached house is the fact that I don't have someone else's noise (from blaring music, social activities, domestic arguments, etc) coming through my walls.
I think if I was considering making a permanent move to somewhere with a party wall, I would, at the very least, have to ask my potential new neighbours (as nicely as possible) if they were likely to be noisy, and I'd probably go around the neighbourhood, knocking on doors and canvassing the opinion of the inhabitants about the peace and quiet of the area. I think that, when you're downsizing to a place that you hope to stay in for the rest of your life, you need to be more discerning than you have ever been at any other time in your property-hunting life - particularly if you're buying a home. (If you're renting you can, at least, move on again after the intial rental period is up!)
Many people who like to have access to theatres, cinemas, restaurants, etc, consider moving to city centre apartments in retirement. I lived in a city centre apartment for six months and, whilst I loved the bustle, buzz and convenience of city centre life, I definitely didn't love being wakened every Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning at 3 am when the casino around the corner opened its doors and disgorged, en masse, its patrons, who then either tried to extend their evening's entertainment by continuing their conversations on the street beneath my window or roamed the area, noisily looking for taxis to take them home.
Maybe the key to all this is to rent a home (of a similar size and quality to the one you're considering downsizing to) for six months, before committing yourself to the move. At the end of the six-month period, you'll have a much clearer picture about the viability - and sustainability - of such a move, and, if you've hated every minute of living there, you can lick your wounds in your old pad and re-adjust your downsizing plans in the light of the knowledge gleaned from the experience...